Help Reduce Kids' Anxiety as They Return Back to School
For months, there has been a large focus on how being out of school has been worsening kids' mental health during the pandemic. However, as schools get ready to re-open, many kids and parents are noticing an increase in anxiety to return to in-person school after an entire year of being virtual. This may be heightened for kids who have a previous history of anxiety.
What may be causing the increase in anxiety?
  • They have to adjust to a new routine. We tend to be creatures of habit and feel more relaxed when we have a consistent and predictable routine. Even though the past year has changed many of our normal routines, kids and families have managed to adapt to these changes and establish a new normal. Many have even found comfort in these new routines as they have been able to sleep longer and have more control of their time. It can be overwhelming to some kids to have to transition again.

  • They have not seen their peers or friends in person. While some kids have been keeping up with their friends through FaceTime or social media, many will agree that their contact has been far less frequent and that the quality of the interactions is much different than being in person. Kids are worried if they will still have friends when they go back to school or if their friends may have moved on or still like them.

  • There are a lot more rules and guidelines to remember. Many kids are fearful about catching the virus or possibly spreading the virus to family members who are unable to or have not received their vaccination. This can create a lot of extra worry that makes it difficult to concentrate on schoolwork.
How can you help your child transition back to school?
  • Listen and validate your child's feelings. It's important that your kids know that you're a safe space for them to turn to when they feel anxious. Let them know that their feelings are valid and empower them to come up with a plan to help them cope more effectively.

  • Do some practice runs. Feelings of anxiety can be reduced through repeated exposure to the feared situation. This is based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based intervention for anxiety . Before your child's first day of in-person school, practice waking up, getting ready, and driving to school. If possible, do a walkthrough of the campus and show your child his/her classroom so that things feel more familiar.

  • Create a consistent routine. If you haven't already, start getting back in the habit of having a set bedtime, homework routine, and morning routine. Kids do better when they know what to expect each day.

  • Help your child focus on what is in his/her control. When kids express a worry to you, instead of simply providing reassurance, help them focus on what they can do to feel more at ease. For example, if your child is worried about coronavirus exposure, instead of saying "You'll be fine," try, "These are the things that you are doing to keep yourself as safe as possible."

  • Teach your child relaxation skills. When we feel anxious or stressed, our bodies experience a range of physiological symptoms. Help your child learn how to calm his/her body and mind with coping skills such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness. Make this part of your daily routine so your child gets lots of practice.

  • Manage your own stress and anxiety. Anxiety is often learned or reinforced by a kid's environment. Make sure that you're taking care of your own mental health needs so that you can model healthy coping skills and thinking when you're with your child.
**For those that are interested, we are now offering options for in-person treatment for psychiatric evaluations, medication management, therapy, and psychological testing at both our Mind Health Institute, Newport Beach & Laguna Beach locations.**

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us directly at -or- (949) 891-0307.